Back To School

It’s funny how for years after finishing high school I had this light-hearted feeling come June and dreaded sinking sensation come September; residual from my scholastic days.

Finally, in recent history, I’ve been able to shake this feeling and live every day as if it was the bland repetition that it is. However, it’s September, and I’ve returned to school. Blah. I feel like buying new clothes and stationary.

With three weeks of vacation (even though it involved trekking around the most populated country in the world and one of the most beautiful places on the planet) it is nice to have a little bit of purpose infused into my day. My schedule is pretty easy and lax.

Classes at Future School are all two hours long with a 15 minute break after the first hour. For classes C2-C4 the foreigne teacher only does one hour (usually decided by the foreign teacher), and then C5-C13 are all full on two hours. The other type of classes are C&P (Children & Parent) classes, which are a bit nerve racking as you basically teach a bunch of little (like 5-6 years old) tykes with their parents pushing them (often literally) to answer first or most. Fortunately the kids only get a half-hour dose of Native English.

My schedule has me doing a straight 4 hours Saturday morning (C10/C9), then I have a extra long lunch, going back for an hour of C3 at 1:35-2:35, I get another extended break, do an hour (3:15-4:15) of C2 and then go home an hour earlier than I ever did at my last school. Sunday’s are a little longer, with a C9 first thing, then two consecutive 1/2 hours of C&P after about an hour break. Then after lunch I kill my afternoon teaching a C13 class and an adult class.

Other than that, my other hours are rounded up with another 2 hours of the adult class on Wednesday nights for two hours. This leaves me Monday – Friday completely to myself (minus those 2 hours on Wed.). Believe it or not this gives me more than enough money to survive comfortably here; however, I may pick up some tutoring to give me a bit of extra cash.

The new schedule isn’t the only thing that’s warmed me to this place. The school itself is quick great. Coming from Jinzhou, easily the most ‘rustic’ of the Dalian branches, it’s a life of luxury here. We’ve got a big bright staff room with couches, organized folders, easy to access lockers (and enough for all the staff), and easy to find resource material. The staff also seems quite warm and friendly. That’s one area of the Jinzhou school that will be tough to top as the CTs and staff there were awesome – hell I fell in love with one of them. But it’s close running regardless (for being cool, not for falling in love with additional members of Future School staff).

It’s a bit strange being a member of a 7-member foreigner teacher staff, but there is a familial feel to it. We go out for lunch together at a local restaurant, and all seem to get on rather well. It’s nice to finally meet the somewhat legendary Pheobe and Richard as well. They are a British couple that have been here for quite some time and I had heard a lot about from other teachers. It’s good to see that the kind things that had been said are all true.

Oh, the one other thing on the wire for news is that it looks like I’m finally going to Dandong. Dandong is a city in Liaoning province (same as Dalian) that sits right on the border with North Korea. It has a few sites to see, but the main attraction is that you can take a boat out into the river that seperates the two countries and point at the poor, repressed folks on the other side.

The best bit about this trip is that aside from Maggie’s bus tickets there and back, the travel and accommodation is paid for by the school. “Why?” you ask. Well, they need a teacher to cover a 3-hour adult class Monday night and are going to farm me out to handle it. I have to work, but I get paid 100 kuai (about $15 CND/h) to to it and get the free trip out of it. Not too bad. I wasn’t sure if Maggie would be keen on going, but she seems quite excited about going on a little trip with me. We’ll not have a load of time to see things, as the most I can stay is until Wednesday morning, as I have to get a bus back to Dalian to get to my class at 6 p.m. Everyone I’ve talked to though says that Dandong can be done pretty comfortably in a day trip.

Alright – one final thing. I finally saw War of the Worlds. I love seeing movies in the theatre. As someone who’s sat though countless very poorly synched copies of bootlegged films, it’s nice to just sit back and see everything the way it’s intended, not the way a concealed Sony Handycam reproduces it.

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